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Home : Press Room : Transcripts
SPEECH | July 17, 2020

Adm. Burke Change of Command Remarks

Thank you and grazie mille.

Good morning, bongiorno. Secretary Braithwaite, Air Chief Marshal Peach, General Wolters, General Townsend, esteemed ministers and ambassadors, chiefs of defense and heads of Navy, distinguished members of the Italian government, Admiral Foggo, fellow flag and general officers and last but certainly not least, to our families, friends and shipmates, thank you all for attending. I am truly privileged to be back here in Bella Napoli. A city which has hosted allied forces, initially Allied Forces Southern Europe, now Joint Force Command-Naples and the United States Navy since the end of the Second World War We are very grateful to our Italian hosts who have graciously made all of us feel at home and as part of the family for decades.

And I can't match Admiral Foggo's numbers for tours in Naples or Europe but for a United States Navy Submarine Officer, if you take Admiral Foggo out of the mix with his superb education and his strategic mind, which gets him those three tours and five over 39 years, I'm not doing too bad because generally speaking, they don't let us submariners see the light of day very much. So, two tours here. That's doing pretty good. But, as excited as I am to be back here in Italy, I'm that much more excited to have the honor and privilege of assuming the duties of Commander of NATO's Allied Joint Force Command as well as U.S. Naval Forces Europe and U.S. Naval Forces Africa. When I was last here, the teams were facing a resurgent Russia. We were working on things like getting chemical weapons out of Syria. Now, we face a security environment that's so much more complex and it's increasingly volatile.

It's just a much more complicated environment than we've experienced in recent memory, and that environment is characterized by overt challenges. You've heard Admiral Foggo and other leaders up here talk about them. Overt challenges to the free and open international order and return of long term strategic competition between nations, to include increase in Russian and Chinese influence right here in our own backyard in both Europe and Africa. An easy approach would be let's get bigger headquarters' staffs so we can plan and work on contingencies for this, more capacity, same way of doing business but more capacity. I think what we really need here is an agile headquarters team that can punch above its weight.

Critical thinking, collaboration, synchronization and synergy between the teams, a team of teams and what I've seen here in my weeks of turnover with Admiral Foggo. That's exactly what we have and it's going to continue to take to address this dynamic environment and the threats posed by our potential adversaries. The NATO Allied Joint Force Command and U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa teams are operating together seamlessly. They know what they do is important and they like working together and I think that's a testament to Admiral Foggo's leadership. That environment that they enjoy. That confidence of knowing what is important and what's not when you don't have the capacity to do it all. That comes from a superb leader that instills us -- instills this in this team.

So Jamie, I think you've done it all during your 39 years of service. It's already been said but a leader, a scholar, diplomat, a philosopher, a warrior and on a personal note to me. You've also been a teacher, a mentor and a friend and I know that there are many others out here who would say the same. So I really do want to be like you when I grow up some day. I can't thank you enough for your thoughtful preparation and the generous gift of your time as we did the transition and the same for Cindy. The two of you are truly a power couple and I think the Navy, the nation and NATO and I would venture to say and Naples are going to miss both of you and your service.

I'd also like to take just a second to pause to acknowledge the entire teams, both staffs, the transition teams specifically but the work of the entire staffs who put together enormous amounts of transition briefs. It just went above and beyond their already taxing day jobs to walk me through the current state of play with the many, many multitudes of projects that are going on. As well as to help Barbara and I, when we were in quarantine period. So thank you all and the teams here that helped us. My final thank you here is to take a moment to say thank you to Barbara. As was already said, she's always been there for me, in and around her own busy career, having been a career Army officer and a former Navy Ombudsman at-large where she looked after U.S. Navy families.

She would tell me that I would be remiss if I didn't recognize the role of our military families. Our military families contribute so much, in so many ways to each and every one of our service members and that's the case no matter which service or which nation we're talking about. We do this so that our servicemen and women can serve selflessly the way we know that they all do each and every day. So thanks to each and every one of the spouses and family members out there. We truly appreciate your service as well. Mr. Secretary, sir, I'm sorry our paths didn't cross sooner. It's really good to have you at the home of our Navy, much needed breath of fresh air and a return to what's really important. Focus on ships, Sailors and standards, I really look forward to getting to know you more and working for you.

For the team at United States Naval Forces Europe and Africa, when I think back to the types of operations we were working when I was last year as compared to the complex and dynamic operations you put together under Admiral Foggo's watch. I'm excited for the opportunity to expand upon your proud legacy and working with you to move that legacy forward. And for the NATO team, one only has to take in the daily news to see that our NATO Alliance will be more important than ever in addressing the multitude of challenges that lie ahead.

On April 4th of 1949, the parties to North Atlantic Treaty vowed to safeguard the freedom, the common heritage and the civilizations of their peoples. Founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law to promote stability and wellbeing in the North Atlantic area, that we from the original charter, and it could not be more appropriate today. Today's threats absolutely reinforce the tenants of that original charter and validates that need for collective defense to the preservation of peace and security. Our Alliance is an enduring one. At 71 years old, it's a powerful reminder of our collective strength. Thirty nations, united in our resolve and determination and with that context in mind for the team that JFC-Naples, you can expect me to challenge you to attack our five focus areas with a renewed sense of urgency.

I'm certain that we'll face challenges ahead of us. These challenges will be even more complex than what we face today but I'm not going to lose sleep over those challenges. Not when we have this talented team of teams working those problems. We're going to continue to learn. We're going to continue to adapt and we'll continue to grow as the landscape and problem sets evolve because our team is learning organization. And because of this team, the nature of our teamwork and our collective dedication to mission, I know we're going to get it done, and our Alliance counts on us to do nothing less. It's an absolute privilege to join this team and I look forward to working with you all.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you and God bless.

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